When I first saw Jim Stuart's 2007 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Standard here, I thought of a razor. I wasn't sure why at first. The Palladium Silver paint shouts, "Look at me, I'm metal!" When you absorb the precision fit of the side panels and the tire-hugging fenders with their complex curves and points, the total package is just outstanding. (Mark Masker's initial thoughts on this bike)
Matt Risley is the man behind this bike and performs his metal-bending finesse from his shop in Phoenix. You would hardly ever know by meeting Matt that he is a mad metal-man. His mind is sharp, more of a thinker-philosopher than a bike builder and doesn't come across with any of the attitude that sometimes plagues his tribe of craftsmen. Like a few others in this wonderfully talented industry Matt is, at least to some of us, more an artist with an engineering mind. Hmm, wait. Maybe it should be an engineer with an artistic eye. Either way, few people have the left and right side of their brains working together; many barely have one side that is unusual.
Matt's canvas just happens to be motorcycles. There is a distant memory of a young guy that reached the highest level of certified Harley mechanics—Master of Technology. That may have been Matt; clearly our memory has been compromised. On that topic, it's a bit confusing even for motorcycle industry veterans to know what to call Matt's shop. There's Matt Risley Innovation, sometimes written as Innovations; MRI; Matt Risley Customs; MRI Customs, and there's likely more. Just Google Matt Risley, as we had to because the website apparently changed along the way as well; or did it?
Back to the task at hand, it took Matt two years to create Jim's one-of-a-kind ride. Matt tells us, "He spent a lot of money on it and completely trusted it would happen. He didn't even pick a paint color. I totally appreciate Jim, his business, the faith he gave me to let loose on this project."
In a very large nutshell, the idea behind this work of art was to build a bagger that was extremely different. Yes, I know. You hear us say that all of the time. However, there's a razor of a different sort when it comes to creating a customized motorcycle, especially when the builder goes to extremes. It's a sharp edge between sublime ambition and gross overindulgence. Motorcycle shops walk it every time a customer tells them to just go wild. The key is balancing form with function, which is pretty much how Matt approached Jim's Standard. When we talked to Matt about this motorcycle he was elbow deep in hard work at his shop. A quick hand wash later, the interview was on.
Baggers: Everybody in the industry has their own take on, "doing something different." What was your approach to that here?
Matt: Looking back on it, as I built this bike a couple of years ago, I wanted to see the rear wheel and such. The bike was to be as clean as possible and I had other ideas for new things like the dash TV, detachable saddlebags, and so on. I hired an artist to come to the shop and sketch out a couple of ideas that I had. They turned out pretty close to what I wanted and we went from there.
Baggers: Speaking of the TV, you put a lot of effort into revamping the electronics. Care to elaborate on that?
Matt: I wanted to clean up the inner fairing as much as possible so I decided to install a Kenwood DVD, CD, with touchscreen navigation, and use a Dakota Digital speedo. The outer fairing has my Flush Mount Lite kit and I added a scoop. The back end of this bike is where all the work went, though.
Baggers: Tell us more about making the bags and fender. What was the hardest part?
Matt: All of it—every bit. The whole thing was hard as hell. We made the bags and fender out of metal first; reverse molded them, and made the actual parts out of fiberglass. My shop's not built for glass work. It's hammers and vices. We had to make tools to make the product. The hardest part was getting it all to be quickly detachable. Just the hinge system on the saddlebag lids has 100 hours of work in it.
This is a totally different beast. The whole idea was being different from the extended bags with lids; to go from bagged to bagless and still look good, but in such a way that no one would ever know this was a bagger when the bike is stripped down. The rear fender slides on the rear struts; it's the support system for the saddlebags and side panels. Not only are the bags and panels integrated around the exhaust system, I really wanted them to show off the rear wheel, which is something you don't see on a bagger with extended luggage. I also integrated the side panels into the rear fender for a seamless line. The side covers are boltless and held in with Harley side cover grommets.
Baggers: You made molds of the bags and fender afterward. Do you plan on turning them into some sort of parts line or was that just for this bike?
Matt: Both. I didn't want to do those parts out of metal because then you're vulnerable. It takes so much time to fix the metal if it gets damaged. That's why I used fiberglass. The molds let me make a new set just in case. I've had a few customers ask me to reproduce the set but the work is so intense. However, I'm working on trying to patent this bike and how it all works.
Baggers: What do you like most about the bike?
Matt: There's something in every piece but it's not too crazy. This motorcycle has a poured metal look like it's wet. Beyond that, there's just these subtleties that you don't notice until you look really closely. I don't do over the top but this is over the top in different ways like the lights in the fairing, the EFI gas tank, the TV dash, and the rear fender and bags. Most people don't understand the ass end of it. All you guys have been complaining about not being able to take your bags off and still look great. Now you can. You can go from bagger to bagless in 5 minutes.
Baggers: Tell us more about the wheels and changing up the look?
Matt: Basically, I started with a Performance Machine billet wheel which I made panels for that fit in between the "spokes." The panels are color-matched blanks.
Baggers: How did you hook up the rear lighting for fast detach?
Matt: It bolts and unbolts from the back of rear fender. There are two bolts under the rear fender. The lights just plug in like everything else on the bike and Harley compatible.
Baggers: You used to work for a dealership. How did that come into play with this project?
Matt: I can't imagine doing this without working at a dealership for ten years like I did. This bike is built around stuff Harley knows works and that I know works. The tank is one of my EFI tanks but I added a bodyline to it. The EFI pump inside it is stock Harley. If you're on the road and have a problem, a dealership can fix the problem. Also, all of the mounting for the bags uses Harley mounting pins and lower bushings on custom made supports. I'm making five of these tanks right now. Some are even going to Australia. It uses the stock setup but everything is hidden.
Baggers: Thanks Matt; we'll let you get back in the shop. We're looking forward to the next project.
From a customer perspective, making a motorcycle this beautiful and ambitious takes just two things—time and money. Jim Stuart had both and he lavished them on this project unconditionally. His trust in Matt's skill and ambition was not misplaced, as you can see. Not only did Matt have the creativity to make something very different from what we expect in a custom bagger, he also had the good sense to not fall off the razor's edge and turn it into a two-wheeled museum piece.
|Shop:||Matt Risley Innovation (MRI)|
|Shop Phone:||(623) 434-8884|
|Year/Make/Mode:||'07/H-D/Electra Glide Standard|
|Build Time:||Two years|
|Throttle Body:||Zippers Performance|
|EFI Controller:||Harley Race Tuner|
|Modifications:||Neck Cut and Raked 3 Degrees|
|Front:||H-D, Race Tech Gold Valve Kit|
|Swingarm:||H-D, modified by MRI for 180mm Tire|
|Shocks:||???? ???? ???|
|Wheels, Tires, and Brakes|
|Builder/Size:||Performance Machine/ MRI 21-inch|
|Builder/Size:||Performance Machine/ MRI 18-inch|
|Painter:||AJ's Custom Paint|
|Dash:||Kenwood 7100 TV|
|Hand Controls:||Performance Machine|
|Foot Controls:||Performance Machine|
|Headlight:||H-D with Headwinds Trim Ring|
|Stereo:||Kenwood 7100 TV|